October 2009


Saturday, 17th October - Worthing

This requires some explanation. I have been to Worthing and very nice it is too, but I have not visited the new Poundland. However, since my Poundland visits have been curtailed recently due to a gammy leg the following report (or at least the pictures) come courtesy of my three sons and No. 1 son’s soon to be good lady wife.

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The Magnificent Seven DVD. Two copies.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly DVD.

Profondo Rosso DVD.

Bloodfist I-IV DVD boxset.

Ludmila’s Broken English by D. B. C. Pierre.

Two Dark Carnival toys.

Indiana Jones toy.

Vincent Price in Edward Scissorhands toy.

A pair of furry gloves.

An oven glove.

A set of measuring spoons and cups.


Rejected item:

No. 3 son has not inherited the Poundland gene and so rejected everything.



1. Where to start? This is rather like standing at the checkout in Mr. Morrison’s establishment and looking at what the person in front has bought. Best to take each purchasee in turn:

a) No. 1 son’s soon to be good lady wife chose the kitchen paraphernalia, the furry gloves (a nice addition to the trousseau) and a book. All indicative of an ordered mind and a responsible approach to shopping at Poundland.

b) No. 1 son chose the educational toys, although why he has to be reminded of the true nature of clowns I do not know since he has been brought up correctly. He also bought three dvds, The Magnificent Seven, Dario Argento’s Profundo Rosso and a 4 dvd boxset of Bloodfist I-IV. The Magnificent Seven is my second favourite film of all time and to find it in Poundland (if one does not already own a copy) must spread joy throughout the land. Although this version originally came with a comic in one of those ‘partworks’ deals, it does have extra features. Profundo Russo I had to look up on imdb since I always get the titles of Dario Argento’s films mixed up and tend to refer to them as the one with Jennifer Connelly, the one with Karl Malden, etc. This is the one with David Hemmings and if memory serves has a very scary bit with a walking ventriloquist’s doll. The Bloodfist tetralogy I have no knowledge of at all but they look like tournament films, which I’m not that keen on. I prefer my kicking done within the confines of a plot. Still, if I came across a 4 dvd boxset in Poundland I would probably buy it too.

c) No. 2 son chose another copy of The Magnificent Seven, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, a Vincent Price toy and an Indiana Jones toy. If one could choose, and by its very nature Poundland removes that option, rather than a decrepit Vincent Price from Edward Scissorhands, one would prefer a Tomb of Ligeia toy with Mr. Price in his wraparound sunglasses (possibly removeable as an accessory, along with his top hat).
   I seem to recall hearing that it was the worldwide success of The Magnificent Seven which led the Italian film industry to switch from making cod Roman epics and muscle man films of the Hercules variety to cowboy pictures. I saw a lot of both when I was growing up and they were generally regarded as rubbish. Then there was a sudden shift in critical opinion and now Sergio Leone is held up as a genius while John Sturges is largely regarded as a journeyman director, even a hack. This seems wrong to me. Admittedly No. 2 son reckons I like my cowboys to wear clean shirts, but it does go a little deeper than that. I like my cowboys’ lips to move in synch with what they’re saying. I also find Leone’s extreme close-ups and long takes extremely tiresome. So, give me Sturges any day. As well as The Magnificent Seven he also made Escape from Fort Bravo, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, The Law and Jake Wade, Last Train from Gun Hill, Hour of the Gun, and of course, the ‘modern-day western’ Bad Day at Black Rock. Not forgetting The Great Escape, The Satan Bug, The Eagle Has Landed and Mystery Street, a neat little noirish thriller photographed by the great John Alton. So, all hail the hacks and down with the geniuses!

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and another thing ...



     A while back No. 1 son wandered (accidentally one hopes) into a 99p Store and bought me the above item as an example of what the extra penny would get you in Poundland. First off, proper nomenclature. The bloke in China who makes merchandise for the 99p Stores is obviously a bit lackadaisical when it comes to naming his items. So this is a “Funny Thing”. It’s a pony, but he obviously just couldn’t be bothered looking that up in his Chinese-English dictionary. There are pictures of others in the series on the box, a lion, an elephant, a rabbit etc., presumably all are just ‘things’ to the bloke in China, perhaps indicating a hangover from the days of Chairman Mao where any indication of individuality was firmly suppressed. In defence of the bloke in China, this could be an attempt to recreate the ‘marvelous toy’ of Tom Paxton’s song (perhaps best known in its Val Doonican incarnation) -

“It went ‘zip’ when it moved and ‘bop’ when it stopped
And ‘whirr’ when it stood still
I never knew just what it was and I guess I never will.”

But I don’t know how big Val Doonican was in China - or whether he just seemed taller. (Is that a bit ‘racial’? The BNP live just down the road and I think they disseminate their message through their satellite dishes so maybe I’m being programmed to go out and have my head shaved, which actually happened when I last went to the barber’s round the corner, even though I usually just have a trim, so maybe the barber got zapped by the BNP’s microwaves, then again, he’s a barber so it wouldn’t take much to make him goosestep down the road.) Besides, any child given this Funny Thing would not be as bemused as Mr Doonican (or Mr Paxton), they would just say, that’s a pony. Plus, it doesn’t move about on its own, you have to pull it.
     Talking of which, on the back of the box one of the Funny Thing’s multifunctions is listed as ‘Ranning’. I have no idea what this means. I have consulted dictionaries and apart from the past tense of run, the only other ran is a noun, meaning “A length of 20 cords of twine”. So, is this a simple error and really the function referred to is ‘running’, which seems a dangerous function to advertise? Plus, just because you stick wheels on something and attach a string does this immediately imply the function is to run with it? Why not swing it around your head (equally dangerous)? But, if not a misprint, then what could ‘ranning’ mean? I don’t know how much twine is in a cord, but I doubt whether we have 20 cords here. Perhaps ‘to ran’ is to unpick the twine provided until the 20 cord maximum is reached - such a task does fit in with the sort of thing Mao urged his people to do in order to keep the economy going. On the front of the box, down the bottom, there is a key to the functions. There is no mention of ‘Ranning’ but there is one called ‘Drag’. There is also an arrow indicating in which direction the Funny Thing should move. Perhaps the bloke in China did get his dictionary out for this one and got confused by all the different definitions of drag and thought it safer to go with ‘ranning’ which, come to think of it is how posh people pronounce ‘running’ so maybe he’s a mate of Prince Charles or his dad. Bit of a giveaway that. The new series of Spooks starts this week, I’ll see if they mention him. Although, if they do he’ll be dead before the series ends and the Chinese branch of MI5 will be taken over by his girlfriend.
     Also listed in the functions of the Funny Thing is “Quarter Hour Play An Music”. This would seem to refer to the ‘Clock Dish’ (also listed as a function, but since it doesn’t do anything I think this is stretching the meaning of the word) which, if you turn the hands to the quarter hours it plays the ‘Demo 8 Sounds’ - except there are only 4. I did have a quick look round just in case there was such a thing as “An Music” and apparently there is, in Japan (http://www.anmusic.co.jp/). My Japanese being a little rusty I asked Mr. Google to translate the site and up came the following:

“Will experience that many artists before.
Sound energy is born with one to play by listening.
Not even digital.
Nor acoustic.
Stage fusing live in high-dimensional configuration of all elements of music.

If you stand there, there is sound coming.

Anne Music School”

Which sounds like a poem. I particularly like “If you stand there, there is sound coming” which could have been written by John Cage. But was written by Anne Music School.
     Anyway, back to the functions of the Funny Thing. “Bead” - that’s one of the functions. There are beads on the pony’s back, so why the singular? I suspect modesty on the part of the manufacturer, overcome with the number of functions, he felt one bead should be enough. Again, in a spirit of charity, I am wondering if the bead function refers to an abacus. Although one of the few things not invented by the Chinese, they have been around in the Orient from way back, when we were still monkeys, and this would also explain why there is the faintly Orwellian legend “1+2=?” on both sides of the box and in the key picture on the front. True, it would be more Orwellian if it was “2+2=?” but I doubt whether that would pass the State censors.
     Then there is the Electronic Organ. And very loud it is too. Just the thing for Little Johnny to awaken his parents on some cold Christmas morn with a sprightly rendition of the ancient carol, “Cold Bastards All”. One drawback of the Funny Thing is that it doesn’t have an off switch. Once you put the batteries in (not beyond the wit of Little Johnny) you’re off and running with the Quarter Hour An Music and the electronic organ. And it is LOUD.
     Finally, two things. On the back of the box the Funny Thing is described as “Quality Top-ranking” - I don’t think so. Maybe his mate (probably played by that chap who looks like Lou Costello) called round while he was making it and told him Val Doonican was a bit old hat and he should go with something more modern and suggested the latest hit from Althea & Donna. And then there’s the little plastic doohickey with which you drag your Funny Thing while ranning. On the box, the legend ‘Multifunction Super Plaything’ is in a thought bubble emanating from the doohickey, which if you turn it upside down looks like some kind of screaming Chinese pumpkinhead. Very unsettling.


     So, as the season to be jolly fast approaches, I would counsel parents to eschew the 99p Store and its confusing merchandise, spend the extra penny and get Little Johnny (who is this Little Johnny and why is he so yclept? Are his parents followers of Herne the Hunter that they saddle their offspring with such a name in memory of Robin Hood’s right-hand man? Will we soon have a gang of Billy Scarletts and Alanadales and Rogerofstokes running round the streets dragging their funny things behind them?) a quality toy such as Jungle Panda!


“If you stand there, there is sound coming.”


November 2009


Thursday, 12th November - Hanley

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Musical Decoration with 18 festive songs.

Sieve Set (16 cm and 18 cm approx).



1 pack of 6 Kodak Supralife AAA batteries.
1 pack of 4 Kodak C batteries.
2 packs of 8 disposable lighters.
5 rolls of sticky tape.
2 rolls of brown parcel tape.

On the subject of lighters - not really. I watched State of Play the other day, and right at the end of the credits in that bit where they tell you that they didn’t harm any animals so you go through the whole film in your head trying to remember where there was any bit when there was an animal in danger, there was a bit about smoking, saying all the representations of it in the film (and there was only one when a character lit up in a hotel room and Russell Crowe told him he was naughty) were there for artistic purposes and were not intended to promote smoking because it was very bad for you. First time I’ve seen that. We’ve come a long way from the days when if the film was a bit rubbish you could watch the pretty patterns the smoke made in the projector’s beam.


1. So, I struggled up to Hanley, mainly to get the lighters, but also to check out all the wonderful stuff that the Poundland of the South was selling, presuming some of it would have filtered up here. No such luck. One dvd stand of ‘real life movies’ - the made for TV kind that turn up on Channel 5 of an afternoon, people with diseases and the like - as if that’s entertainment. And two copies of The Magnificent Seven. True, I did pick one up and wondered whether I should buy it for a spare in case something should happen to my proper copy - but then I put it back, for that way lies madness.

2. The rest of the stuff we needed - sieves, batteries, sticky tape, maltesers. The only other thing was the musical decoration with 18 festive songs. I chose the snowman, pile of presents and teddy bear in a box, rather than the Santa Claus on a train, since the former says Christmas more than the latter, which says Santa Claus has changed his traditional mode of transport and raises questions, which you don’t need at Christmas. Speaking of which, when I got back to the car, which the good lady wife had pulled up outside the shop (to save my gammy leg, I should explain, lest you think I was planning a Poundland heist), she asked me if I’d seen the reindeer. “What reindeer?” I enquired, having seen a poster that Santa was due on the morrow, “a real reindeer?” “No,” says the good lady wife, “two men in a reindeer suit.” She’s on drugs.


December 2009


Thursday, 10th December - Newcastle-under-Lyme


£19 bag of rubbish.



Rendition DVD.

L’uccello dalle Piume di Cristallo (“Bird with the Crystal Plumage”) DVD.

Stargate Atlantis: The DVD Collection No. 70. The Siege Parts 1 to 3 DVD.

Adam Hart-Davis presents The Eureka Years (The Complete Third Radio 4 Series) Double CD.

Legends: The Christmas Collection CD.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike & Dru: Pretty Maids All In A Row by Christopher Golden.

6 Festive Tealights (in the shape of tiny reindeer).

Packet of 4 Mens’s Handkerchiefs.

Big bag of Mint Imperials.

A Toblerone.


2 packs of 8 disposable lighters.
2 packs of four blank dvds.


Rejected Item:

A pack of two battery-powered fibre-optic Christmas trees. Rejected on the grounds that I bought a USB-powered one last Christmas and I would not want people to think I come from Abbey Hulton.


1. Spent too much this time. Probably because I was full of the Christmas spirit and thought, that’ll do. Did manage to get a few presents for the good lady wife which will be revealed after Christmas. And the Adam Hart-Davis CD is for my mate Clive who lives in the 1950s and doesn’t hold with all this internet business, so there’s no fear of spoiling the surprise. Although, talking of the 1950s (and in what universe do the Beverley Sisters deserve to be called ‘Legends’ - they’re there on the cover of the obligatory Christmas CD - always get one of those, even though they’ve always got the same 20 tracks recycled in a different order), I must be the only man who still uses handkerchiefs (not sure whether it’s hygienic to walk around with a cloth of germs in your pocket but, on the other hand, it’s probably more eco-friendly than throwing tissues away and I’m all for saving the planet) so I bought a packet. There was a time, of course, when handkerchiefs (or chieves, the O.E.D. says both are acceptable) were a standard Christmas gift from aged relatives, but since I don’t have any of them now, I don’t have many handkerchieves either. These are probably not good. One’s faith is tested by the misuse of the apostrophe on the front of the box: “Mens’s
Handkerchiefs”. And the label on the back warns “HAND WASH ONLY
KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE” - so that’s summat else I’ve got to remember when I’m blowing me nose. Still, it’s good to see the little tick in the “Quality Guaranteed” circle - always worth looking out for that, don’t buy anything with a cross in it.


The handkerchiefs are rubbish. They seem to have been made for a race of dwarven people, which explains that warning about fire on the back. Mordor Poundland must have got the mens’s handkerchiefs of the normal size by mistake. Heads will roll.

2. Onto the DVDs. Rendition is a proper film so you feel obliged to buy it if you find it in Poundland even if some unscrupulous people might already own a copy (aaargh Jim lad). For such transgressors are the scum of the earth and fully deserve to spend eternity in the fires of Hell, for if their activities are not checked then the music industry cannot hope to make fortunes from back catalogues of dead musicians or promote new artists like them soldiers who sing songs about coming home (dunno why they went in first place, silly beggars) or that daft woman with a good voice, and where would we be without Hollywood to give us new films where people pretend to be in cartoons
and, heaven forfend, what of the poor independents? I managed to sit through 40 minutes of Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky on Channel 4 the other night until the total lack of any semblance of a plot made me switch it off. We then watched Premonition which I’d taped the night before and that was pretty much rubbish as well (turned out it was all Sandra Bullock’s fault and if she’d just kept her mouth shut then her husband wouldn’t have died at all (warning: spoilers! sorry) not that she seemed to realise that and seemed quite happy at the end to have got a new baby out of all her time-travelling shenanigans - is that feminism?) but at least there was stuff happening and somebody had sat down and written it all out on a sheet of paper, or at least the back of a fag packet, rather than just gathering all the actors together and saying find a funny voice then talk rubbish for two hours and we’ll just film it. Anyway, Rendition is one of those Iraq films that did so badly at the box office and weren’t liked by the Americans at all, and admittedly you do have to choose your Iraq films carefully, but this is a good one.
     I mentioned the problem with Dario Argento films before, and it turns out I have got this one on tape, but aside from making a list and checking it twice when you’re standing in Poundland, which is probably not a good thing to do, I can’t see any way around not getting swops. Besides, this is a DVD, and if memory serves, it’s quite
     Terrestrial television gave up on the Stargate universe a while back, so I have no idea what’s going on there now. According to Stargate Atlantis No. 70 (presumably from some series with a comic), there seems to have been a siege which lasted for three episodes. Looking forward to remaking the acquaintance of the guys and gals from Stargate Atlantis - dunner recognise the bloke in the middle at all.


Colm Toibin’s name should have lots of little marks over it like it’s raining but I can’t be bothered.

Update: 28th December 2009.

3. Mint Imperials I got because Mr.Morrison hadn’t got any and the Toblerone and the tealights are part of the festive ritual (I think the fourth wise man brought them - his name was Shemp).

4. And finally, the Buffy book, without Buffy in it. I miss Buffy. I watched the sixth episode of Dollhouse the other night, the one where Joss Whedon wrenched control from his masters at Fox, and yet again I was reminded of the BBC’s decision not to let him make a series over here about Giles (not the cartoonist, another regular Christmas present from the 50s). And yet the BBC can make Paradox. For that matter the BBC make Dr. Who and Torchwood. And Bonekickers, although that was funny. But they said no to Joss Whedon. Presumably because he hadn’t written any episodes of Eastenders. ’Tis beyond the wit of man. So, even though it came up as ‘Kids book’ on the till receipt, I thought I’d give it a go. Although I still haven’t got round to reading Colm Toibin’s The Master. He was in Buffy as well.


The presents:

A River Runs Through It DVD.

In Love And War DVD.

The Kaleidoscope Classic (Essential Edition).
“the challenge that everyone can solve but no one can conquerTM

Coley & Gill Winter Cranberry Glass Votive candle.

Megaman NT Warrior: GutsMan vs TorchMan.

Talking of gnomic statements, I reckon you could stick a little TM on ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions’ (John 14:2). You’d think Jesus, being a carpenter, would have got that one right, but presumably he just stuck to tables and chairs and never fitted a kitchen. What he obviously meant was ‘many rooms’ but now everybody going to heaven thinks they’re going to get their own house, whereas they’ll end up in a bedsit and begin eternity feeling hard done by and a little
resentful. Serves them right for being good.

1. These are the Poundland presents. Mostly for the good lady wife, but Megaman NT Warrior: Gutsman vs Torchman was for No. 2 son and bought mainly because it featured someone called Gutsman, which makes one immediately imagine the scene in the planning department of Megaman NT Warrior Co. Ltd. and wonder what names were discarded.

2. The good lady wife is a Robert Redford fan, so A River Runs Through It is a nice addition to her collection, although Mr. Redford does not appear in it, merely directs.  It is about fishing, so, one for completists only.

3. In Love and War is about Ernest Hemingway’s adventures in France during the First World War where he got all his ideas from. Apparently he met Sandra Bullock and thought what would happen if there was a bomb on a bus which exploded if it went below 50 mph. The rest, as they say, is history.

4. You can never go wrong with a scented candle.

5. The Kaleidoscope Classic (Essential Edition) was bought on the age-old principle of standing in the shop staring at it for half-an-hour and still not understanding what it was. It is some kind of puzzle thing where you have to arrange various blocks to make prescribed patterns. I do not know what “the challenge that everyone can solve but no one can conquerTM” means. I also doubt that one can take a random sentence and put a little TM at the end of it implying that no one in future can utter those words without paying a stipend to the Kaleidoscope company. It is a gnomic statement and I have spent many a night since purchasing the product ruminating on its meaning. Surely if the challenge is solved then there’s an end to it and it is conquered. Unless we are meant to take it in more of an existential sense, that all challenges can be solved, but since we all die in the end such success is meaningless, and nothing can be truly conquered unless one has discovered the secret of immortality. However, I doubt that the makers of the Kaleidoscope Classic (Essential Edition) are inferring that the box contains the means to defy the natural order of things. Although the image of God sitting there playing with His Kaleidoscope Classic (Essential Edition) that He has just purchased from the Heavenly Poundland, ordering our fate by placing little blocks in patterns, then getting cross when He can’t do it and chucking the thing across the room so we all go tumbling about in tsunamis and earthquakes and the like, is a neat one. No, I think we’re back to the planning department at Kaleidoscope plc where someone comes up with a meaningless sentence and someone else thinks it sounds good so they put it on the box and stick a little trademark sign on it to give it some extra weight.


If you stand there, there is sound coming. TM


on to 2010


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